Manhattan and Brooklyn may be well-known epicentres for the arts, but there’s plenty more to see within a two-hour radius
It goes without saying that New York City has no lack of cultural destinations, particularly in Manhattan. Yet no matter how much we may adore Gotham, an escape from the urban jungle can offer a chilled-out change of scenery: plenty of fresh air, sweeping landscapes, quiet open spaces and one-of-a-kind cultural discoveries.
Find a pleasant day to escape the crowds and sirens to experience open-air museums, sculpture gardens, historic cemetery parks and an art party paradise in a former school. Here are cultural destinations within a two-hour journey of midtown Manhattan.
Storm King Art Center
(1 hour by car, 1 hour 45 min by train)
A short trip north of New York City in the Hudson Valley, Storm King Art Center’s open-air sculpture collection, spread across 500 acres (200 hectares) of rolling hills and fields, is open April through November. You’ll probably feel like a Lilliputian walking amongst the giant relics and idyllic surroundings here, where art meets nature, in the form of more than 100 massive pieces by names equally as grand, including Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Goldsworthy and Sol LeWitt. This year’s special exhibitions include works by Dennis Oppenheim and Josephine Halvorson. And whether you’re an art or nature lover, it’s impossible not to be swept away by unexpected beauty. You’ll pass a stream to encounter a 23-metre (75-foot) America’s Cup canoe painted with Roy Lichtenstein’s pop-art mermaid. Or turn a corner to find Maya Lin’s undulating, grass-covered waves of mini-mountains.
1 Museum Rd, New Windsor, N.Y., 845-534-3115
(1 hour 30 min by car, 2 hours by train)
Housed in a former Nabisco box factory on the Hudson banks, this sprawling (300,00-square foot) and serene, quasi-ecclesiastical art museum showcases an unparalleled collection of Minimalist, Conceptual, and Post-Minimalist art. Its sun-filled galleries feature works by the big boys of 1960s art including Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Michael Heizer, John Chamberlain, Richard Serra and Andy Warhol. The sculptures of Louise Bourgeois in the bright and airy mezzanine top all of that, however. Afterwards, stroll through the verdant outdoor gardens and then stop for a bite at locavore hotspot Homespun Foods.
3 Beekman St, Beacon, N.Y., 845-534-3115
The Barnes Foundation
(2 hours by car, 1 hour 30 min by train)
The 93,000-square-foot home, designed by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, holds the eclectic collection of the late, self-made pharmaceutical magnate and art collector Albert C. Barnes. Reputed to be the world’s largest private collection of early French Modern and Post-impressionist paintings (even larger than any single collection in France), the museum/house showcases more than 600 Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso paintings, and an impressive 181 Renoirs. Faithful to Barnes’ vision, works are arranged by light, line, colour and space. (Note that the Barnes Arboretum is a separate facility on the other end of town, so be careful how you aim the GPS.)
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, Penn., 215-278-7200
Philip Johnson Glass House
(53 minutes by car)
Built in 1949, Architect Philip Johnson’s iconic Glass House is set on a pastoral 49-acre Connecticut estate. His see-through, steel-framed residence is a real feat of modern architecture. It’s also a stunning setting for architectural and art exhibitions and group discussions, as well as dance performances and an annual summer party. Upcoming exhibitions will showcase works by Robert Rauschenberg and Yayoi Kusama. The Glass House and grounds are open for tours May through November.
199 Elm St., New Canaan, Conn., 203-594-9884
(35 min by car, 50 minutes by transit)
With the majestic feel of a country estate, Wave Hill in the Bronx’s Riverdale neighbourhood may be the most scenic cultural escape within the five boroughs. The 28-acre public garden, on the grounds of a 19th-century mansion, overlooks the Hudson River and Palisades. In addition to sweeping views, magnificent pines, blooming gardens and woodland hiking trails, the Glyndor Gallery features temporary contemporary art exhibits indoors and on the grounds.
www.wavehill.orgWest 249th Street and Independence Ave., Bronx, N.Y., 718-549-3200
MoMA PS1 (and environs)
(20 min by car, 15 min by subway)
MoMA’s younger, more adventurous and less central sibling, PS1 Contemporary Art Center consistently shows game-changing, experimental multimedia, painting, photography, and sculptures – and it throws great parties, too. In a converted 19th century public high school in Long Island City (a section of Queens reachable by subdway), exhibitions have debuted works by international and local all-stars including Olafur Eliasson, Keith Haring, Dennis Hopper, Juan Munoz and Canadian Janet Cardiff. There are also bi-weekly Sunday Sessions (from January through June), showcasing dance, art and music performances. In the balmier months, the school yard heats up with of New York’s most epic summer parties: Warm Up Saturdays, featuring large-scale themed installations, artist performances, craft beer stands and celebrity DJs.
www.momaps1.org, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City (Queens)
PRO TIP: While you’re in Long Island City, be sure to slide into a cute wooden booth at cocktail bar Dutch Kills – or better yet, take up a stool and watch the bartenders at work assembling delicious early 20th-century style drinks. The cleverly named libations are also notably cheaper than in Manhattan.
If you require something on the more nourishing side, head for some of New York’s best Japanese noodles at Mu Ramen. Their Korean-style version of ramen broth earned a critic’s pick in The New York Times. But if it’s more culture that you crave, some of New York’s most vibrant street art happens to be just around the corner. Curated by Art Org NYC, Top to Bottom features a series of murals by more than 50 local and international aerosol artists. Graffiti work wraps around a three-story exterior of a building that takes up a city block.
The Noguchi Museum
(25 min by car, 35 by subway)
Housed in a former 1920s brick factory in Long Island City, The Noguchi Museum is devoted to the life’s work of Japanese-American sculptor, landscaper and set designer Isamu Noguchi. It showcases exquisite wood, marble, basalt, and metal sculptures, which he shaped into his signature refined and clean Modernist aesthetic in his Queens studio. The museum is designed to eliminate distractions so that his artwork is the sole focus. Several galleries are enclosed, while others are al fresco. The museum’s dreamy and lush open air Japanese garden (with a fully grown Katsura tree and a seemingly bottomless fountain sculpture) is the perfect place to relax, reflect, and soak-up art just far enough away from Manhattan’s maddening crowds.
9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City (Queens), N.Y., 718-204-7088
The Noguchi Museum
Panorama of the City of New York
(30 min by car, 50 min by train)
Covering nearly 10,000 square feet, the Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum is awesomely massive. Commissioned by Robert Moses in the years leading up to the 1964 World’s Fair, if offers an omniscient view of the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods. At a one inch to 100 feet scale, the Empire State Building towers at 15 inches (38 centimetres).
It took more than 100 people and three years to create the city’s topography and handcraft its 895,000 buildings. The windows of Manhattan’s skyscraper windows have even been brushed with phosphorescent paint to cast a glow after dark. Although there have been updates to the panorama over the past 50 years, the Twin Towers still stand tall at the tip of Manhattan in the diorama.
New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 718-592-9700
The One You Can Visit Without Leaving Manhattan: The Met Cloisters
If you just can’t bear to part with Manhattan but still crave a New York minute away from the chaos, take a trip up to the island’s northerly reaches. Overlooking the Hudson River, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters boast 67 acres (27 hectares) of breathtaking vistas, landscaped gardens, and flowering walkways. They also happen to house the Met’s superb collection of medieval art and architecture, including colourful Flemish tapestries and the famous 16th-century Hunt of the Unicorn.
99 Margaret Corbin Dr., 212-923-3700